If you are in tech sales, it's likely you have heard of "The Godfather" of enterprise software sales, Mr. John McMahon. He's often referred to as "The Godfather" since he's the only 5X Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) out there and created some of the most successful sales teams the industry has ever seen during his time at the helm of PTC, Geo-Tel, Ariba, BladeLogic and BMC. More recently, John has helped shape tech giants such as MongoDB, DataDog, Zscaler, Sprinklr, Lacework, AppDynamics, and Snowflake through his effective sales management philosophies and MEDDIC sales qualification methodology which is used by thousands of sales organizations across the globe still today.
With the numerous credentials, incredible reputation, and the fact that I've worked for several companies that John has had a strong influence on, I thought I would take a deeper look into his approach to success.
After reading a lot of his content and watching various interviews, I tasked myself to boil down the three most important lessons that John McMahon taught me for both sales leaders and individual contributors.
3 Lessons for Sales Leaders
1. Focus on Development, Not Friendship
McMahon is a strong believer that the job of being an effective sales leader is to focus on coaching - not to be best buds with your team. McMahon says:
“They already have enough friends. They’re looking for a leader who can coach them, develop them, push them to achieve things they never thought they could achieve.”
If you hire the right people, they will want to continuously be pushed and strive to get better so that they can achieve results they never thought possible. McMahon states, "If your reps are not moving, they are not growing." So your reps don't go stagnant, it's upon you to show something inside of them that they didn't even see in themselves.
As a sales leader, McMahon states, "If you want to get what you want, you have to get others what they want" so it's important to always have your reps' best interests at heart. Be intimate with your people and know where they are in their career and what they really desire and help them get there.
As a leader, the more you help your team members grow, the more success they will have and success breeds loyalty.
“I think highly of you. I think you should be at a higher level. So do others. I know you can get there. I can help you get there.” - John McMahon
2. The Culture Should be About Winning
When McMahon discusses a sales culture, he references that employees ultimately want to be proud. They want to be proud of the company, proud of the people they work with, and proud of the people they work for and the precursor to pride is winning.
Creating a winning culture starts with recruitment and John stresses that there should be a deep inspection on a potential recruit's capabilities against the hiring profile and you should recruit based on intelligence and persistence. If someone is smart enough, they’ll gain the knowledge of the game and if they are persistent enough, they will be determined to practice new skills over and over again.
“If sales managers hire C-grade players and do everything else perfectly—onboarding, training, developing, and maintaining a great sales process—that team will still have a difficult time becoming the number one sales force. However, if you hire only grade A players and do everything else average, the A players will help you find a way to win.” - John McMahon
Once an A-player is on board, it's critical to help them continue to grow, learn, earn, and win so that they can attract more A-players to the organization and create a winning cycle. If A-players start to see themselves being surrounded by C-players, they will leave because they won't be able to learn anything from their peers and the winning culture will die with it.
3. Don't be a "Glorified Scorekeeper."
According to John, most sales leaders out there are really just “glorified scorekeepers” because most of them do very little to motivate and develop their team. Instead, they’re focused on deals - not rep competency. These types of managers use their power of position as a way to manage which is heavily based on rep activity (i.e. # of calls, # of POCs, etc) as opposed to helping people actually accomplish something. Power of position is highly "transactional" and leads to high attrition and only short-term gains. The truly great leaders motivate through understanding strengths, weaknesses, des